We’ve all heard the “eight glasses of water a day” recommendation for years, but is that actually accurate?
During the summer, it’s a pretty safe bet that all of us could use a little more water than we are getting. There are many factors that determine how much water we need; like anything else, too much water isn’t good for us. Hyponatremia, or imbalanced electrolytes due to over-hydration, can be lethal. To get an idea of how much water you need on a daily basis, here are a few things to consider:
1. Are you a meat eater?
We need protein, but large quantities of meat can overburden the body with uric acid. If you are a heavy meat eater, you will need extra water to help flush out uric acid and keep it from taxing the kidneys. On the flip side, vegetarians and vegans may be able to drink slightly less water.
2. What is your salt intake like?
Extra sodium equals extra water retention. As I mentioned earlier, electrolyte imbalances can be very serious. For most people eating a standard American diet, too much sodium is more likely than too little. If you’ve been eating out frequently or had a salty meal, a little extra water will help re-balance things and reduce bloating and water retention.
3. How active are you?
The American Council on Exercise recommends one-half cup to one cup of water per 15 minutes of exercise. For most workouts of an hour or less, sports drinks aren’t necessary or particularly helpful. If you put in over an hour of heavy exertion, you will need to replenish electrolytes as well as the water; if you’d rather skip the Gatorade, coconut water is a great healthy alternative.
4. What’s the weather like today?
This one is a no brainer. If it’s hot out and you are sweating like crazy — drink before you even notice you are thirsty. If you are noticeably thirsty, you are probably already slightly dehydrated.
5. Where do you live?
At higher altitudes, you will need more fluids. If you are up in the mountains (or flying all day) adding extra water can help prevent altitude sickness and head off dehydration as well.
6. How much caffeine or alcohol have you had?
Caffeine and alcohol are both diuretics. Add one glass of water for every cup of coffee or alcoholic beverage to stay hydrated—and prevent a hangover. Interestingly, even though green tea contains a small amount of caffeine, it does not dehydrate the way coffee and other caffeinated beverages do.
Bonus: If you want to boost the benefits of your drinking water, consider adding the juice of half a lemon to at least one of your daily glasses. Although we think of lemon as being acidic, lemon actually helps alkalize the body and minimize inflammation. Even if you opt for coffee later, consider starting the day with some warm water and lemon.
Photo credit: Flickr / chad_k